Why Not Regulate Guns Just As We Already Regulate A Similarly Dangerous Hunk of Steel?

Imagine you turned on the news today to learn that Group A of politicians is accusing Group B of politicians of plotting to confiscate all automotive vehicles. As evidence, Group A is noting that Group B supports requiring users of vehicles to be licensed, registered, and of sound mind and body, and opposes the use of armored tanks or monster trucks on community roadways.

In that news story, imagine that political Group A is insisting that no vehicle regulations be used.  After all, they claim, any regulation would be equivalent to, or would surely lead to, confiscation of all vehicles.

We would think Group A was delusional, even though we all adore cars and are vehemently opposed to them being confiscated. But that, my friends, is the world in which we are living, when it comes to gun control.

Gun control = confiscation meme
Almost every debate about responsible gun control regulation is dodged by gun advocates. Instead of debating proposed gun regulations on the merits, gun advocates instead claim that the mere mention of a gun regulations constitutes ipso facto evidence that guns are about to be confiscated. That ridiculous assertion has been trotted out there for decades, despite the fact that gun confiscation has never even been proposed by a mainstream politician, much less come close to being enacted.

Obama_gun_control_confiscation_memeIf you really think President Obama, who has been President for seven years now and only has one year left in his term, is a gun confiscator, wouldn’t you think he would have confiscated by now? Don’t you think he would have done it in the first two years of his presidency, when his party controlled the House, Senate and White House?

Obviously, no one is going to confiscate guns, because there is no political support in America for confiscating guns. It hasn’t happened, and it’s just not going to happen.

We need to put those confiscation delusions to rest before America can have a reasonable debate about how to responsibly regulate guns.

A Familiar Regulatory Framework

How should America regulate guns?  My approach is simple: Let’s regulate guns similarly to how we regulate cars and trucks. Both motor vehicles and guns are hunks of steel that pose relatively little public danger when used responsibly, but are extraordinarily dangerous when used irresponsibly. For that reason, society keeps motor vehicles legal, but we regulate them to reduce the risk of harm.

Therefore, we should regulate guns just as we regulate motor vehicles:

  • Users should be licensed.
  • Users should have to pass a basic safety related test in order to get a license.
  • Users who are not physically or mentally equipped to safely operate the equipment should not be licensed to do so.
  • There should be rules for safe use of the equipment.
  • Users who don’t use the equipment responsibly should lose their license.
  • Each piece of equipment should be registered.
  • Equipment registration data and user licensure data should be readily available to law enforcement officials to help them enforce laws.
  • The equipment should be able to be used in many parts of the community, but not in all parts of the community.
  • The equipment should be required to have locking devices to help the user secure it from theft and use by minors and other unlicensed citizens.
  • The equipment should be required to have reasonable safety features.
  • The equipment makers should be held liable for failure to produce safe equipment, just as every other manufacturer is.
  • Equipment that is unnecessarily dangerous to the community shouldn’t be legal.

That’s what American society does with cars and trucks, with relatively few complaints or abuses, and that’s what we should do with guns.

Would applying the motor vehicle regulatory model to guns stop every accidental shooting, murder, mass murder and suicide? Of course not. Just as regulated motor vehicles still are dangerous, regulated guns would still be plenty dangerous. But just as motor vehicle regulations limit the harm caused by cars and trucks in society, gun regulations would limit the harm caused by guns in society.  It would make a difference.  It would make things less bad.

So let’s have an honest debate about that familiar and successful regulatory model.  And for once, let’s have the debate without getting side-tracked by ridiculous delusions of confiscation.

Rep. Ellison’s Ultimatum: Single Payer or Government Shutdown

SatireSaint Paul, Minn. –U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)  announced today that he is leading a progressive effort to shut down the federal government until a single payer health insurance system replaces the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed in 2010, further complicating the federal budget impasse.

“The private insurance exchanges used in the ACA were never what progressives wanted, so ‘we the people’ have decided to make a principled stand against them,” said Ellison, Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.  The Caucus has long advocated for a single payer system in which the government would fund and operate a single insurance pool for all Americans, similar to how Medicare has long been structured for older Americans.

Rep. Ellison’s rhetoric was eerily similar to that of his fellow House Republicans, who have pushed for replacing the Affordable Care Act with the status quo system.  Under the current system, 48 million Americans are uninsured and health costs are among the highest in the industrialized world.

Rep. Ellison said his caucus is pushing legislation authored by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) to essentially build on and expand the federal Medicare program.  Under the bill, all Americans would be guaranteed access to health care regardless of an ability to pay or pre-existing health conditions.

Just as Tea Party-backed House conservatives advocated in 2009 for preserving the status quo private health insurance system, House progressives pushed for a single payer approach in 2009. But neither side was able to muster sufficient votes to enact their preferred policy.

Still Ellison points to an Associated Press poll finding that 65% of Americans agree that “the United States should adopt a universal health insurance program in which everyone is covered under a program like Medicare that is run by the government and financed by taxpayers.”  Ellison also noted an NPR poll shows that 93 percent of Americans believe that the number of uninsured under the status quo system that the Republicans are fighting to preserve is a “serious problem.”

“When House Republicans finally agree to open up the government again, we’re going to shut it down if they don’t support our single payer approach,” Ellison said.  “House Republicans shut down the government to maintain a status quo insurance system that almost all Americans believe is a serious problem, so progressives can damn sure shut it down over something that two-thirds of Americans support.”

Rep. Ellison said he has offered to compromise with Republicans by offering to delay the implementation of the single payer system by a year.  Ellison has also offered to allow private insurers to sell Medigap-like supplemental health insurance plans.  However, Ellison says Republicans are refusing to even discuss compromise.

In a related development, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced that he would move to re-shut down the federal government if House Republican lawmakers didn’t pass his legislation to require background checks on people buying guns at gun shows or online.  A Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that 86% of Americans support such background checks.  Despite this overwhelming public support, Manchin’s bill was rejected by House Republicans in April 2013.  Manchin also demanded a new credenza for his office.

NOTE:  If it is not obvious to you, THIS IS SATIRE.  IT IS NOT A TRUE STORY. Representatives Ellison, Conyers, and Manchin are much too responsible to shutdown the government when they don’t get their way in the democratic process.

This post was featured in Politics in Minnesota’s Best of the Blogs and in MinnPost’s Blog Cabin.

Related post:  Bachmann Vindicated:  Industrialized Nations Continue Rush to Replicate U.S. Health Care System

– Loveland

Will Guards in Schools Protect Kids, Or Jail Them?

In neighboring  South Dakota, a law has been enacted to authorize school teachers to arm themselves, as the NRA has been promoting.  Readin’, writin’, ‘rithmatic and revolvers.

In Minnesota, Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center) has been beating that drum as well:

You can’t afford to completely encase your schools with bulletproof windows and steel locked doors — but you can afford to share the cost of an officer with the city or county, as some districts are doing.

Sometimes schools use armed guards to protect students, rather than allowing the headmaster to wield a Bushmaster.  Last week, a New York Times reporter looked into how that whole armed guard thing is going: Continue reading

Who is the MN GOP Representing on Gun Background Checks?

In politics, presidential candidates who win the support of over 60% of Americans are said to have won overwhelming “landslide” victories.  Harding’s 60.3% in 1920. FDR’s 60.8% in 1936. Johnson’s 61.1% in 1964. and Nixon’s 60.7% in 1972.  Landslides!

It is so difficult to get 60% of Americans to agree on politics, that such “landslide victories” are considered highly unusual indications of a historically overwhelming level of public sentiment.

In Minnesota right now, Minnesotans of all walks of life, including Republicans, Independents, gun owners and Greater Minnesota citizens, are giving a landslide victory to gun background checks: Continue reading

Readin’, Writin’, and Revolvers?

Minnesota Representative Tony Cornish (R-Good Thunder) has an idea.  Let’s put guns in schools, so that we can defend our kids from armed attacks.

I don’t doubt that Representative Cornish’s intentions are pure.  I really don’t.   We all want to come up with ways to prevent future Newtown-like tragedies, and the answers aren’t easy.

But when emotions are running high, it’s always important to beware of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Continue reading

The NRA’s Political Silencer

“You’re using this tragedy to your political advantage.”

That’s the standard line used any time a politician discusses ways to reduce the odds of tragedies like the Batman massacre occurring.

It’s a very effective way to silence all debate, because no one wants to look like they’re insensitive to the victims. The NRA and its supporters know this, which is why they use this rhetorical weapon with AR-15-like speed and repetition. Continue reading